Friday, October 30, 2020

Wild Life

Tim found our retirement property about 4 years ago. It is across the road from my brother in law and sister's pasture that hooks around behind the local cemetery. It is a sad and neglected place, with years of rubbish dumped. It had a huge beaver dam in the little stream that runs through it, which kept probably 1/3 of the property wet and poorly drained. The beaver also damaged a great many trees, and some of them were what Tim would call 'good ones'. That was the first order of business, taking care of them. We did. They moved across the road and built another huge dam (it makes me laugh a little that I am always adding an 'n' to 'beaver dam'. In thinking about it, I've decided that is actually not incorrect.) That damn flooded the entire western end of my BIL and sister's pasture before they were able to get that cleared out. 

So beaver are incredibly destructive. They have their place, I suppose. The only thing that I know for sure is that their place and our place need to be two different places.

We had bunnies, and Tim liked that. Their numbers were not excessive, and there was one who used to come to the edge of the brush line to watch us sitting around the fire. With a little work, I think that he would have become tamed. 

But, nature being nature, and the circle of life, etc. the rabbit population took a big hit. There were at least three dens of foxes across the road. That was a fun summer though, watching those kits grow. 
We have the occasional visits from the local bear. When we walked into the land previously known as 'the swamp', we saw a young apple tree, spindly and struggling. Now that the land is drying out, it should do better, poor thing. I looked at it and said, "Something has visited," and it had. Something had circled around the base of that little tree, something that laid down to eat its fill. Tim said, "Huh. That's bear." 

I sense yet another game camera in the our future. 

The game cameras we do have pick up all sorts of critters. Tim was sure that we had a coyote. They are very wary critters, but he saw signs. His major clue was scat that had the dirt scuffed up around it. That is the behavior of a member of the dog family: they do their business and then briskly 'wipe their  back feet'. Sure enough, the game camera caught a large coyote walking up the driveway as if he owned the place. The everlasting disappointment to me is that they didn't handle the woodchuck population, which was totally out of control on that poor neglected land.

We are of a live and let live philosophy (unless we are stocking the freezer), but the woodchucks had to go. I was using a livetrap and relocating them. Tim was less patient, and shot them, one after another, five of them in one notable afternoon alone. He put the carcasses in a clearing, and they were always cleared away by one predator or another before our next visit to the property.


While fun to watch, these creatures are a problem as well. We really have too many of them at this point. It's hard to plant when they are hard at work undoing everything that you are trying to do. 

My cousin had been severely injured in a car accident. A deer leaped in front of him and came right through his windshield. He has some physical limitations due to the accident. He's always been an outdoorsman. He had made his peace with the fact that he'd never trek out into the woods to hunt again. 

That story bothered Tim. We had the perfect set up for a hunter of limited mobility, and he opened the property up for cousin Tim to hunt on. I made a family joke. My Tim is Tim Buck One. My cousin Tim is Tim Buck Two. Tim Buck Two was able to pull his vehicle right up to a shooting shed. Last year Tim Buck Two got a small buck and was over the moon. 

This year Tim Buck One spent a lot of time and money improving the land to include Tim Buck Two's hunting area.  He was able to brush hog it, and to remove yet more of the two generations of junk left by the previous owner. He took down some dead trees. He had a small pond put in  that serves two purposes: it drained a wet area below the garden, and it also made a nice place for the deer to drink when they cross the stream to help themselves to the windfall apples from the trees. 

Tim Buck Two got another buck this year and it was a nice one. He has told us over and over again how grateful he is. Over and over again, we tell him that we're grateful for the help. We really have too many deer and they are a problem. 

Last weekend, Tim's game camera caught a good look at what we thought was a feral cat. We were a little confused. Our feral cat, 'Get Along', is black and white. This cat was black, solid black. A long hair. We thought perhaps we had another feral cat, but the camera caught it clearly. We have a fisher! Tim is delighted. 

We have a nice property that we are taking back from nature. It has been used as a junkyard for many years. The plants have grown wild.  We are trying to clear the land, and to make a garden and to establish berry plots. We are building the equipment shed needed to house the tractors we use to achieve our ends. 

Next will be the green house. We know where it will be, and the roof run off from the garage will provide an onsite water source for the plants we grow. 

After that, we will begin on our house. The ramshackle little house on the property now has snakes in the walls, probably drawn by the abundance of field mice. There are two raccoons living under the porch. (They never miss an opportunity to sneak inside dilapidated house if they are given a chance.) An unknown creature lives in the basement and we hear it scrabbling away from us when we go down into the semidark.  

My poor husband also has a wife who  (at 63) has lost a great deal of her adventurous spirit. We've got enough trouble to make our peace with the creatures outside, let alone do battle with them inside the house too. The unreasonable woman has demanded a new house, and refuses to budge on her demands.

Tim stayed late last week to work on the property. I had a lot of stuff to get done and none of it was at the property. I took my car and left. He was going to drive the truck home later. 

On his way home, from the side of the road came a hawk on a dive bomb. Sure it would hit the windshield, Tim flinched.  It ended up colliding with the truck grill and made an astonishingly loud  bang. Tim pulled off as soon as it was safe, and checked. It had taken a chunk right out of his grill. 

He turned around and headed back. He wanted to get a closer look at the hawk because it was huge. He thought it was a red tail. You never have an opportunity to see a bird of prey close up like that. He was sad that he would be looking at a dead bird.

Much to his surprise, the hawk was standing there in the middle of the road.

 He was relieved to see that it wasn't dead, but that's also a bit of a problem. He didn't have any way to gather up an injured hawk for transport to the Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. You can't just pick up an injured hawk, sit him on your front seat and drive off. They're not amenable creatures.

He pulled his truck to the side of the road to ponder the situation. 

Glaring at him with his fierce hawk eyes, the hawk turned, spread its wings and lifted to the sky, 

When Tim told me about it later, he was still awestruck. 

10 comments:

  1. Okay, you've stumped me. What is a "fisher"? If you just moved your beavers elsewhere, they may come back. Even when my husband removes them permanently, more take their place. It might take a year or more, but we always get more. They are SO destructive!

    I love watching wildlife and have been thrilled with many of the birds we've seen at our pond. Bald Eagles, King Fishers, Wood Ducks, Egrets & Herons, Osprey, and many more. (I hear owls, but rarely see them) We have a red-tail hawk that stays near the house. I always hope he's not hunting at my bird feeders! So glad Tim's experience hitting one turned out well. My only experience like that didn't. :(

    Those kits are SO CUTE!

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  2. The removal of the beaver is permanent. We have no choice for the very reasons you stated, Kelly. However there is a huge dam. Very big. It stretches for 100s of feet and is taller than I am in some places. It has backed up water to cover acres and acres. It is not our property. The elderly couple who own the land probably don't even know it is there. I think we just get new beaver moving from there, but so far, so good. We have not seen any back at work at our place. They are interesting to see but so horribly destructive. A landowner's nightmare to be sure.

    I put a link for fishers in the post. I meant to and forgot.

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  3. Stand your ground for a new house! Snakes in the walls??!! Are you bleeping kidding me????? 😬

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  4. Getting a game camera has crossed my mind many times and yet I haven't acted upon it. I should as we got a lot of critters that use our yard as a thoroughfare. I have seen deer, turkey, fox, squirrels, rabbits and a few other creatures. Our neighbor even has a picture of a bobcat but I've yet to see one outside of a zoo.

    The last part reminded my of a math teacher I had in high school. When we went to match class, he had dark shades on and we gave him a hard enough time he removed them to reveal two black eyes and a few cuts on his face. After giving him grief about his wife beating him up, he told me a story that has stuck with me ever since. On his way to school that morning, he came across a turkey that had been hit by another car recently. He thought it would be great to save the beautiful feathers so he picked it up and threw it on the floor of the back seat. After several minutes, he found out the turkey wasn't dead but was alive and quite agitated about being in a car and proceeded to "flap the shit" out of my math teacher, his words. He finally got his car off the edge of the road and threw himself out the door onto the highway without looking because he was sure if he spent another second in the car he would die. Fortunately nobody was coming and the turkey exited the vehicle. I think about this every time I come across a dead animal and have thoughts of taking it back home as a souvenir.

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  5. Oh Tim wouldn't have brought it home. He just wanted to id it. But your story reminds me of another story...a man came across a raccoon and decided he needed, would not be able to live without a coonskin cap (yeah he had been drinking). His friends stopped the vehicle. He flung his shirtless self out of the truck and grabbed the raccoon. His friends got a nice picture before the crap hit the fan. It was not dead and in the ensuing ruckus the man lost a perfectly good nipple.

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  6. What amazing (good and bad) adventures you're having! I admire you for taking on this property and house, although I would also insist on a new one. I loved hearing about all the critters and learned a lot. I don't know much about beavers, but I did know what a fisher was. :)

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  7. Wow. Those are a lot of critters you have to deal with. We have two rabbits and they have grown on me so much. I never thought I would have a soft spot for bunnies. Have a great weekend.

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  8. Thanks for the link about the fisher. Now I know! (and they are nowhere near us!)

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  9. Kelly, according to that map, they are no where near us, either, but that's not so. The last native one was killed in the 1920s, but the Game Commission began to reintroduce them in 1994.

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